Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sweetwater, Final Thoughts

There were 36 horses pick up for the competition in Lexington and only 23 completed the process and were adopted.  I asked what happened to the others and got a vague answer about injuries, lameness and family emergencies.  I know one horse that was in my county was diagnosed with a club foot.  Another horse at the competition had the worse club foot I've ever seen, was nearly vertical on her pasterns and hooves, splay footed and over at the knees.  The trainer had her radiographed and was told the bruising from the coffin bone was evident on the x-rays.  She tried to have corrective shoeing but the horse was too sore to have nails hammered in so she got special boots for the horse to wear when she rode her.  The horse wasn't vaccinated for a disease prevalent in her area and ended up contracting Potomac Horse Fever.  It spent 6 days in ICU at the Equine Medical center.  This trainer spent thousands on her horse. She ended up buying it back for $550.

My take away lesson here is, examine the horse before it is loaded on the trailer.  Don't be afraid to refuse to take one that is an obvious problem.  The problem will only get worse when the horse is put into work.

I was at this event for 3 full days and saw very little of what was scheduled.  I wasn't even riding my horse but felt there was little time to prepare for each activity that they wanted the horses for.  Not only were the trainers expected to compete, they also were responsible for all the PR for the horses.  We were told most people adopt a horse because they feel like the horse chooses them.  So we had to go into the arena and try to get our horses to interact with the public.  Then there were all the people that came by the stalls to ask questions.  I can only imagine the stress level of the trainers that were trying to prepare for their top 10 performances while answering all the questions from everyone walking past.

Take away lesson,  don't go as a trainer and expect to do anything but promote your horse.

There were some remarkable trainers at this event.  Most were open, friendly and supportive of everyone else.  I had several wonderful conversations with some truly special people.  One trainer has a horse therapy program for army veterans and troubled children.  He told me several times, "you're standing here and 12 others aren't, you should be proud."

Take away lesson,  try to talk to everyone.  They all have a story to tell.

I didn't mean to sound like I was poo pooing the liberty trainer.  She was excellent.  I just didn't get her explanation of using mental energy to create energy from the horse.  Every trainer that is in the business of training and not just doing it for fun seems to have a niche for themselves.  The one I referred to as Mr Magic had a special halter that was stiff so the nose area stayed opened while you slid it on.  It had hand made rawhide beads on the nose band.  His lead rope was just the right length and weight.  Everyone has something that is the best way and that is what they push.

Take away lesson,  there is more than one way to do everything.  Learn multiple ways and use what works best for you and your horse.   Be open to new ideas.  You might be surprised at the results.

That being said, I came up with my own thoughts.  All the other horses I have ever worked with seemed to just evolve into being trained without much fanfare.  I really never considered their emotional states as it was relating to their stage of training.  Sweetwater changed that for me.  As her training evolved I could clearly see changes in her emotional state.   These states were definitely fluid from day to day and depending on what was being asked of her, but this is the 11 stages I came up with.  

Terror - the first 3 days
Fear   - about the next week
Fear aggression -  this was when she started charging at me while tossing her head.  and when I didn't back                                away but made her work more we moved on to the next emotion,
Anger - I think this was when she went through the phase of squinting and twitching her eyes
Anger Aggression  -  if I didn't read the eye twitch and kept pushing for a result I would get the anger                                            aggression.  Once it was her trying to bite me but usually it was just her throwing her                                        shoulder in toward me and shaking her head or charging at me.
Irritation  -  about anything I did with her head she was irritated about.
Tolerance - She learned to tolerate the saddle, long lines, tarps, milk jugs, just about anything that rattled or                     made noise.
Acceptance -  Once on a scheduled she seemed to be ready for the next thing
Curiosity  - I could start to see this one for about the last month when I stopped pushing her so hard.  She                      was really curious at the show grounds which surprised me.  She loved checking out all the trash                    cans.
Willingness - She was starting to look for me, she would whinny when she saw me and was ready for me to                      ask her to do things.
Enjoyment - I didn't actually see this one but hope she will find it.

I think she bonded with me more than I realized.  When I went to get her from the round pen after the other trainer worked with her she did her low nicker.  She would also do that every time I came to her stall.  When she was so angry about being in the stall, if I stood there with my fingers through the wire, she would sniff me and stop pawing.  And when I was standing in the arena with her she would keep checking on me by just turning her head to touch my arm or smell me then go back to resting.  She did this about every 5 minutes.

Take away lesson,  I might have to do this again.


C said...


Mrs Shoes said...

You damn sure SHOULD be proud! You gave Sweetwater a foundation that someone else will be able to build on & thus gave her a chance at a happy life. Difficult horses can become throw-aways quite readily when they go to people who only THINK that they are great horsepeople; & I wonder how quickly they convince themselves 'it was all the HORSE, not their fault at all'. You armed that little mare's new owner with all the information, the good & the bad, & I know we both hope to hell that she can meet the challenge. I hear you about most horses kind of melting into training without much resistance - they can make a person believe they're a hell of a trainer (rightly or wrongly), but I think maybe it is the tough ones that require SO. Much. More. of us that are the most truly rewarding. You may not have been doing backflips from her, but you taught her so much in that short time, & I will even venture to say that you showed her that she CAN trust someone, which may be the hardest thing to teach the difficult horse. Good on you, be damned proud of what you did for that sad & scruffy mare you first brought home.

aurora said...

Great reflection & final thoughts!!

Crystal said...

Excellent I think you did a fantastic job and gave her a great start and sounds like a good buyer for her.

Sherry Sikstrom said...

Wonderful! you did well, I agree you were there and many weren't!

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